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Saturday, 23rd September 2000

Coventry City 0
West Ham United 3

by Richard Osbourne

Got to Highfield Road with the sun shining brightly on a lovely warm day. About 4000 West Ham fans were in great spirits supporting a team down at the bottom of the league, but by no means out. Subdued Coventry support was patchy in places, large gaps of empty seats, in a club that hadn't seen a home victory since the start of the season.

We lined up with an ever confident Shaka enjoying the sun between the sticks. A back three comprising of Rio, Stuart Pearce and Igor (the Ambassador) Stimac. Winterburn and Tricky Trev aided the defenders in their usual wing-back positions. Taking up midfield saw Lomas team captain, Joey Cole and a welcome return from injury Frank Lampard. Up front the first choice of Kanoute and Di Canio saw us shape like a team ready for action.

The game kicked off with a new chant (for me at least). Sung to the tune of Spandau Ballet's Gold we had:

Joey Cole - COLE
Always believe in your soul
You have the power to know
Always believe iiitttt (repeat 4000 times)

Our fans in full voice with songs including 'We're Bottom of the League', to 'Twist And Shout' and the 'Hokey Cokey'. I can't believe we sung those, I was expecting a rendition of 'I Will Always Love You' by Whitney Houston next. It was by far the best atmosphere of the season.

From the outset there was only ever one team in the game. We had the flair, the passing was not one hundred percent but much better than that of previous games. More than anything we had the fighting spirit, it was just a matter of putting the pigskin in the back to the opposition's net.

Rio went down in a heap part way through the first half. What I thought was a recurrence of recent hip injury turned out to be a problem in the Love Spud area. Yet another injury in our defence, someone has really got it in for us. A strange move by Harry saw Carrick come on to replace Ferdinand. Lomas pushed back into defence with Carrick taking up the holding and distribution role. It was actually quite an astute move, our defence was rarely tested and it meant that we could pretty much take up with two in defence and six pushing up from midfield.

Our pressure was relentless. Again we looked very dangerous in our build up play just outside the box, neat crosses coming in with no one on the end of them. Joe Cole went by a couple of defenders just outside the box and hit a curler which was just pushed wide by Hedman. Di Canio tried his luck with a dive in the penalty area, but to no avail, limping and sulking away we knew he was on a mission.

Our first goal came with Di Canio trickery. Turning defenders left, right, inside and out then poking the ball past the keeper. Not to be outdone by his mentor, Cole receives a beautifully weighted Paulo cross and duly converts. At long last the flood gates open and we are commanding the score not just the game.

Half time arrives with a taste of sweet victory within our grasp. Part of me praying that it was full time for the three points and another half of me praying for a second half as rewarding and enjoyable as the first.

Coventry came out in the second half as expected. They fought nail and tooth obviously reeling from the wrath of their manager Gordon Strachan. An open goal missed with a shot deflected off the post showed that it was not going to be the Sky Blues' day.

Frankie Lampard improved throughout the game. Finding his feet again from his recovery he managed to tuck away a goal to seal the victory and sink another nail into Coventry's home record coffin. Sinclair went down late during the game when quite a number of our players were beginning to tire. Changed for Potts, we sat back and just enjoyed the lion's share of the possession.

Kanoute too looked unfit. He was walking for most of the second half and looked very out of sorts. A surprising lack of Defoe on the bench after his midweek success, saw who I thought was Angus (by his number) take Kanoute's place. Having never seen Angus and know that Diawara was a hulking striker, my suspicions were confirmed by the official site today. Diawara worked hard for his 10 minutes of play seeing a cannon ball of a shot from 25 yards tipped over by Hedman.

Di Canio enjoying the game immensely and with full support of the crowd got all the attention he deserved. Williams pushed the ball into PDC's stomach towards the end of the game to make him get on with one of our corners. Pulling a funny face and doing a pansy type wiggly dance, Williams slunk back to the penalty area with vast amounts of egg on his face.

Many unsung heroes litter the West Ham performance. Noone had a bad game, but of course we all delight in the flair and talents of Joe Cole and Paulo Di Canio. A sucker-punch with the injuries, but with bravado and team spirit like that we should be able to tear any team apart. Coventry had been having a bad season; it had just got worse. Our season has just begun.

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